Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re having a great summer so far! Over the past week, our members have been busy with reviews of books by authors including Matthew Specktor, Brandon Taylor, Susan Minot, Ha Jin, and Katie Kitamura, and interviews with writers including Ishmael Reed, Richard Powers, and Tom Scharpling. Stay safe, stay cool, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

NBCC Emerging Critic Mandana Chaffa reviewed Ya Ge’s The Strange Beasts of China, translated by Jeremy Tiang, for the Chicago Review of Books, and Matthew Specktor’s Always Crashing in the Same Car for the Ploughshares blog.

NBCC Emerging Critic A.V. Marraccini wrote about Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, the feeling of the 90’s, certainty, doubt, hagiography, and swimming pools, to name some crucial components, and explores the boundaries of numbering and footnotes as forms of critique, in an essay for BOMB Magazine.

Zack Graham wrote about Detroit-based techno artist Carl Craig for The Nation.

Lisa Guidarini reviewed Brandon Taylor’s Filthy Animals for the New York Journal of Books.

Ron Slate reviewed Katie Peterson’s Life In A Field and Pedro Mairal’s novel The Woman From Uruguay for On The Seawall.

Former NBCC President and Star Tribune senior editor for books Laurie Hertzel wrote her weekly Bookmark column on the pros and cons of book clubs. She also wrote about Elinor Lipman’s Rachel to the Rescue and Sarah Berman’s nonfiction book Don’t Call It a Cult.

Dana Wilde reviewed Why I Don’t Write and Other Stories by Susan Minot, Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act by Nicholson Baker, and Wildflowers of Maine Islands by Glen Mittelhauser for The Working Waterfront.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin for The Boston Globe.

Michael Bobelian reviewed Peter S. Canellos’ The Great Dissenter for The Washington Post.

Former NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault reviewed Sandra S. Phillips and Sally Martin Katz’s American Geography for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt and Lies With Man by Michael Nava for the Sun-Sentinel and other publications, and The Therapist by B.A. Paris and The Heathens by Ace Atkins for Shelf Awareness.

Carissa Chesanek reviewed Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Edith Widder’s Below the Edge of Darkness for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Member Interviews

Julian Lucas wrote a profile of Ishmael Reed for The New Yorker.

NBCC President David Varno talked with Pulitzer winner Richard Powers about his latest novel, Bewilderment, for Publishers Weekly. Earlier this month, David profiled ten notable debut fiction writers for PW’s biannual Writers to Watch feature.

Erik Gleibermann interviewed Paisley Rekdal about cultural appropriation and her new book Appropriate: A Provocation for Ploughshares

Daneet Steffens interviewed Chris Offutt for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Sebastian Stockman interviewed television writer and host of The Best Show Tom Scharpling for A Saturday Letter

Shani R. Friedman interviewed Judy Batalion for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed Sujata Massey for Murder by the Book in Houston, Texas.

Member News, Etc.

Rebecca Donner’s book All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days will be published on Aug. 3 by Little, Brown in the US and Canongate in the UK. A Hebrew translation is forthcoming from Matar. Rebecca’s book is a fusion of biography, espionage thriller, and scholarly detective story about a family member who was a leader in the underground resistance in Berlin during the Nazi regime. The New York Times will publish a profile of Rebecca in August, and her book has received a starred Publishers Weekly review. You can read more about the book here and here.

NBCC Emerging Critic Mandana Chaffa will be moderating a panel on John Ashbery’s newest book this Wednesday, July 28, at 4:00 pm Central Time. You can register for this free event here.

Former NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault’s book Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains won the Maine Literary Award for nonfiction.

Connie Post’s book Prime Meridian was a finalist in the 2021 International Book Awards.

Lauren Sarazen’s short story “There Are No Stars Here, Either” is shortlisted for the Australian Book Review’s Elizabeth Jolley Prize

Partner News

Our friends and partners at Rain Taxi will present former U.S. Poet Laureate and National Humanities Medal and National Medal of Arts recipient Rita Dove in their event series on Tuesday, August 3, at 5:30 pm Central. Rita Dove will be joined by Pulitzer-prize winning poet Jericho Brown to discuss her first book of new poems in twelve years, Playlist for the Apocalypse. You can register for this free event here.

Photo by Raphaël Labbé via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

SEND US YOUR STUFF: NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to Be sure to include the link to your work.